Newsflash: the Dodgers can’t hit. At all. Even a little. 12th in the league in runs scored. 13th in OPS. 14th in slugging. Dead last in the National League in home runs, to the point where Philadelphia and Florida each have at least twice what the Dodgers do (89 and 86 to 39). Worse, it’s ruining some pretty good pitching; the Dodgers stand 5th in the league in ERA and 3rd in OPS against.
Based on OPS+, my preferred stat, we’ve got only 4 hitters who are blameless in this recent power outage (excepting the injured Rafael Furcal): Russell Martin, Blake DeWitt, Andre Ethier, and Matt Kemp. They’re the only everyday players who are above the 100 OPS+ threshold of league average, and in the case of the latter three, it’s not even by that much – 10% or less. But hey, when your offense is as offensive as this one has been, you don’t worry about improving guys who aren’t as above-average as you’d like, not when half of your lineup is so far below it.
So, I don’t know; maybe it’s just me. But if you’ve got guys who have a track record that shows they can hit, wouldn’t it be a good idea to let them play? I’m not just talking about Andy LaRoche; we’ve been over that here more than once. No, today I’m talking about your friend and mine: Delwyn Young.
Have you ever actually looked at the Panda’s minor league stats? (Yes, “Panda”. Vin Scully has a habit of calling the rookies “Young [lastname]“, like “A fine grab by young Kemp”, or “what a rocket by young Loney”. What do you think it sounds like when he says “a double by young Young”? “Panda” it is.) I’m not exactly sure why he’s gotten such short thrift in the “hyping prospects” department. I mean, the kid has hit everywhere he’s played.
Look at the line he put up in AAA last year: .337/.384/.571 and a .955 OPS. 54 doubles. He hasn’t gotten much of a shot in the bigs, but in 76 at-bats over three seasons, he’s still got a .316/.366/.474 and a 114 OPS+. Sure, he’s a lousy second baseman – but are we really playing Jeff Kent at the keystone for his defense? He may not be a gold glove outfielder either, but that hasn’t stopped us from (Warning: beating a dead horse alert!) playing Juan Pierre out there every single day, either. I hate to drift back into “Juan Pierre stinks” territory, but he’s having yet another typically mediocre season, with a 76 OPS+ that is exactly one point better than last year’s, and 8 points below his career mark of 84.
So let’s recap. You’ve got an offense that, for all intents and purposes, is awful. You’ve got a kid who has hit absolutely everywhere he’s played, with a record-setting season in the minors last year and productive in his small shot at the bigs. You’ve got a massive Juan Pierre-sized hole in the outfield and in the lineup (why does Torre insist on hitting him leadoff all the time? He’s hitting only .248 from that spot this season.) Round peg into a round hole, no?
Obviously, this season’s only going to get turned around if players who’ve underachieved like Brad Penny and James Loney turn around, and just as importantly that Rafael Furcal can get healthy and keep producing. But it sure is frustrating to see management continually choose to play lesser players over more talented ones, while the team suffers for it.